Dancing Astronaut does Djakarta Warehouse Project: Reflections from 10,000 miles across the world12347762 931939626893827 5663312183098403555 N

Dancing Astronaut does Djakarta Warehouse Project: Reflections from 10,000 miles across the world

Dancing Astronaut does Djakarta Warehouse Project: Reflections from 10,000 miles across the world

About 10,050 miles across the world and two oceans away lies the largest electronic music festival of Southeast Asia: Djakarta Warehouse Project. Though still fairly unknown in the US, Djakarta Warehouse Project has proliferated over the course of seven short years from a one-day event to a thriving, two-day gathering that played host to about 70,000 in early December. Lauded as one of Asia’s premier dance music festivals, Djakarta Warehouse Project as we know it today is the product of Ismaya Live‘s commitment to educating a curious, yet still evolving market.

Ismaya Live’s clout has pervaded the Southeast Asian market since DWP’s inaugural run in 2009, which magnetized electronic music fans from all over Indonesia and neighboring countries. This year, the live events agency featured a superlative roster, boasting top-tier talent like Major Lazer, Jack Ü, Porter Robinson, and Armin van Buuren. My experience at the annual soirée was not limited to the enticing array of artists, but included the people I met, the vehement fans that I saw, and the riveting culture into which I integrated.

The following is a series of reflections on Djakarta Warehouse Project’s biggest moments and the most noteworthy differences between an Asian and an American music festival.

Photo courtesy of Rukes

DWP invite a Rain Man to keep the precipitation away

The notion of the Rain Man is nothing new. Many traditional societies, such as Native Americans and Australia’s indigenous populations, rely on the power of their rainmakers to beckon mother nature. But in many parts of Indonesia, such as Bali and Jakarta, natives depend on their pawang hujan, or “rain guide,” to prevent rainstorms from dampening outdoor ceremonies that vary from weddings to funerals, to even an electronic music festival.

Two years ago, Djakarta Warehouse Project fell victim to a monstrous storm that nearly destroyed the outdoor festival grounds, which at the time was Eco Park Ancol, in North Jakarta. Since moving to JIExpo in 2014, though, Ismaya Live could sigh in relief knowing that at least half of its festival would be protected within the spacious confines of the warehouse-like space. Yet still, DWP’s iconic Main Stage – which resided outdoors – was left unsheltered from a possible downpour. Ahead of this year’s festival, which again took place at JIExpo, its organizers invited a rain guide to pray to supernatural beings in the hopes of clear skies. Unsurprisingly, his meteorological talents worked wonders.

Photo courtesy of DWP

A Symbolic Main Stage

For Djakarta Warehouse Project’s seventh edition, dance music revelers were in for a particularly special treat. In Indonesia, the Garuda is the USA’s equivalent of the Bald Eagle. The Garuda, a sweeping, bird-like creature, is Indonesia’s national emblem and as such, is deeply ingrained within the nation’s culture.

This year, Ismaya Live designed its largest – and perhaps most symbolic – Main Stage to date. The aptly titled “Garudha Land” breathed new life into Indonesia’s national symbol, manifesting a highly creative and stylistic approach in manufacturing the festival’s prized stage. By day Garudha Land appeared innocent yet imposing, but come nightfall the bird transformed into a sinister brute that emitted burnished lasers, pyro, and a dazzling fireworks display.

Photo courtesy of Rukes

A festival within a festival, within a festival

Exclusive to Djakarta Warehouse Project was its “festival within a festival, within yet another festival” essence. Although most grandiose music affairs take advantage of the great outdoors during festival season, only about half of DWP was an open-air event. The Garuda Stage resided in JIExpo’s outdoor space, while the festival’s two remaining stages were roofed.

Whereas Garudha Land demonstrated the signature festival appeal, the two indoor stages contributed unique elements that made it feel as if we were at three separate festivals. Day one’s Mad Decent stage, for example, was situated in a vast space reminiscent of an auditorium, while The Darker Side was appropriately placed in a room that exuded an industrial, warehouse-y aura. The lack of cohesiveness worked in DWP’s favor, offering guests a versatile experience and catering to the tastes of even the most fastidious of dance music aficionados.

Photo courtesy of Rukes

Ismaya Group brings in countless local eateries

As an agency that conceptualizes, develops, and operates a handful of lifestyle properties throughout Indonesia, it came as no surprise that Ismaya Group incorporated its own exquisite eateries from which fans could choose. Thrown into the mix were Pizza e Birra, The People’s Cafe, Tokyo Belly, and Kitchenette, to name a few. Fook Yew, a delectable Chinese bistro and bubble tea lab, incited the most interest in foreigners given its playful name.

Even more remarkable was the presentation of Ismaya Live’s dining area. Most American festivals designate certain sections of the festival grounds for food vendors, but rarely do they offer seating arrangements, let alone reserve an air-conditioned, indoor space for the average festival goer. Yet Ismaya Live provided both for General Admission, VIP, and VVIP attendees alike: a luxurious escape from Jakarta’s sweltering heat, humidity, and teeming crowds.

Photo courtesy of DWP

Heightened security measures but what about free water?

At a time where free water at music festivals has snowballed, it was surprising to see that DWP did not offer this staple to ticket holders. As an American, I’ve grown accustomed to viewing complimentary water not as a luxury, but a necessity – and those festivals that fail to offer it routinely come under fire. Even in Australia, which has been featured in the news as of late due to multiple Stereosonic deaths, mandatory free water has become a grueling topic of discussion to help prevent untimely deaths.

I couldn’t help but to ask one of the festival’s organizers why, despite 90 degree weather and acute humidity, they charged for water – even if at a reasonable price. Whether we’d like to acknowledge it or not, illnesses do happen – Djakarta Warehouse Project included – and I was still somewhat dissatisfied when told that “The kids here are used to the weather and they know that they need to stay hydrated.” While Ismaya Live’s efforts to keep everyone safe were more or less successful, best seen in its intensified security, making free water readily available should be next on the festival’s radar.

Photo courtesy of Rukes

Jack Ü make their Asia debut

In October, DWP raised eyebrows among their industry peers and fans alike upon revealing the final phase of their 2015 bill. Brimming with dance music heavyweights Axwell /\ Ingrosso, Tiësto, Kaskade, DJ Snake, and Armin van Buuren, the festival’s most notable act, by far, was Jack Ü.

Though Diplo and Skrillex officially came together two years ago, the wunderkinds had yet to step foot on Asian soil together. Sharing time slots with Cashmere Cat and Claptone, it’s easy to say that Jack Ü drew the largest crowd of day one. A sea of emphatic fans, about 80% of whom were native Indonesians, danced to festival-primed tracks like “Freak,” “Beats Knockin,” and Gesaffelstein’s “Pursuit.” Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” acted as a curveball in the pair’s set, but was well-received nonetheless.

Photo courtesy of Rukes

Skrillex controls the crowd from a third-floor balcony

Sonny Moore’s prestige extends far beyond the DJ booth. Despite the few who show contempt for the dubstep kingpin, Skrillex’s God-like presence at Djakarta Warehouse Project quickly shot down even his biggest critics.

Just as Major Lazer concluded their spirited set at the Mad Decent Stage, fans slowly filtered out of the auditorium toward the exit – just before noticing a beaming Sonny overlooking the crowd from the third-floor balcony. Screams ensued, a group selfie was taken, and Skrillex enthusiasts bowed in his honor as he motioned them to cheer through a series of flapping arm movements. Truly a shining moment in dance music history, few embody the illustrious qualities that Skrillex does as he dictates thousands without even being on stage. Click here to watch the video.

Photo courtesy of Floris Heuer

Jamie Jones attracts a small, but committed, group of fans

A standout on Djakarta Warehouse Project’s roster, Jamie Jones served as one of the few “underground” performers during this year’s installment. He, along with his fellow The Darker Side acts Claude Von Stroke, Claptone, and Phillip George, struggled to attract more than a few hundred at a time – but those that did show face were zealous fans.

According to Ismaya founder Christian Rijanto, the underground music scene is still nascent. But by booking a producer as deified as Jamie Jones, he hopes to “educate the market” and cultivate a new branch of electronic music culture that has not fully made its way to the opposite side of the world. Though Jamie’s DWP debut was drastically underrated, his fanbase is certainly growing – and now, it is up to Ismaya Live to deepen underground dance music’s footprint throughout Indonesia’s burgeoning scene.

Photo courtesy of DWP

Final takeaways: Galantis, Tiësto prevail while others remain hidden in the shadows

Arguably, the leading differences between the Indonesian and American electronic music fan are the level of diversity and receptivity to sounds. Ahead of the festival’s arrival I asked an attendee which artists she was most excited to see, and she responded, without hesitation, “Galantis and Tiësto.”

Simply put, the Asian community is irrefutably in love with EDM. Yes – the stigmatized, three-letter acronym that is detested in nearly all other parts of the world, is the most sought-after genre throughout Southeast Asia. Big room tracks like “Wonderwall,” “Bounce Generation,” “Deep Down Low,” and “How Deep Is Your Love” elicited positive reactions, so much so that headliners often watered down their sets by feeding fans a continuous loop of hit after hit. In the rare instance that performers did experiment with lesser-known songs, the crowd largely did not know how to respond – and instead stood in place with perplexed countenances. In other words, tastemaking in Asia is onerous, though not necessarily impossible.

Galantis, Tiësto, Jack Ü, DJ Snake, and Major Lazer lured the largest crowds while people began trickling out upon Kaskade, What So Not, and Headhunterz’s entry. The Darker Side stage floundered in comparison to day two’s Cosmic Station, which featured Gabriel & Dresden, Sied Van Riel, and LTN. But this is only the beginning. Ismaya Live has triumphed in teaching its fans about not only what is popular, but those artists that are forthcoming. It is certain that Rijanto, along with his team, will continue trying their hands as educators as they move toward diversifying the musical palate of Southeast Asia. 

Photo courtesy of Rukes